Basalt High golf wins home tournament at RVR, continues strong early season run
Only a couple weeks removed from the start of practice, but with regionals already on the mind, Basalt High School boys golf coach Travis Stewart’s main goal is to manage the excitement, and possible growing expectations, of his team.
“It’s a tempered excitement. I think we’ve got a really good, diverse group of young men,” Stewart said. “They click together as a team. I think we are capable. The potential is there to shoot some great scores. I think between now and then the key is to keep them motivated, keep them focused.”
The Longhorns continued their torrid start to the fall by winning their home tournament, played Tuesday at River Valley Ranch in Carbondale. It was as close as a tournament gets, with four teams finishing within a stroke of each other. Basalt and Steamboat Springs each shot 227 to tie for first, with BHS getting the scorecard tiebreaker for the win. Eagle Valley and Aspen both shot 228 to finish in a tie for third.
“We are just extremely grateful to River Valley Ranch. They’ve been so generous with their facilities, their time, their energy,” Stewart said of getting to show off their home course. “It was a good day of golf. Our team this year is a really great blend of experience and youth. We’ve got a couple of seniors who are just steady.”
Vail Christian’s Connor Downey ran away with the individual title on Tuesday, shooting 7-under 65 — he shot 7-under-par on the front nine alone — to win by eight strokes over Eagle Valley’s Gunther Soltvedt and Basalt’s Kyle Murray, who both shot 73. Aspen’s Will Stiller and Nic Pevny both shot 74 to finish in a tie for fourth place, a day after the Skiers finished third as a team in their home tournament.
Murray, a BHS senior, seems to be the leader for the Longhorns this season, although the team is chock-full of players capable of shooting sub-80 rounds. Junior Hunter Oger shot 76 to finish 10th, while sophomore Alec Claassen, senior Braden Exelbert and sophomore Garrett Exelbert all shot 77 to finish tied for 11th. Freshman Jackson Stewart, the coach’s son who attends Roaring Fork High School, shot 78 to finish in 16th place.
Behind Stiller and Pevny, Aspen’s best round came from junior Sky Sosna, who shot 80 and finished tied for 20th place. A trio of AHS players in Sasha Forman, Carson Miller and Lucas Lee all shot 85 and tied for 28th.
“In particular, Kyle Murray today really had a great round. He’s been ready for that round and today was a great day for him to bust out and put it together,” Travis Stewart said. “Then Braden Exelbert is another senior in our top group that has really played consistently the last couple of rounds. It’s been great. We won two out of our first three tournaments with a second place in Montrose. We are just trying to build some momentum, learn and just get better every week if we can.”
This is the first season as head coach for Stewart, who took over for Joe Fries after he stepped aside. The BHS golf team is comprised of players from three different schools, with all of those mentioned but Jackson Stewart and Murray attending Glenwood Springs High School.
Stewart, who works in the construction materials business, hardly considered himself a top-tier candidate for the coaching job, but threw his name into the mix just in case nobody else stepped up.
“It’s what you do in small towns. When the town needs something, you step up, you help. I just hope I’m doing right by the community and these young men. It’s been a fun ride so far,” Stewart said. “It’s really cool when you can just root for the greater valley and not have to be so entrenched in your town or school. I got to say, this could not be a nicer group of young men.”
Nice, and talented, it seems. So far this fall, the Longhorns have proven capable of hanging with anyone and continue to rack up wins, including over their rival Aspen, which they’ve rarely bested in recent years.
Basalt is off until playing again early next week in Gypsum. The regional tournament remains scheduled for Sept. 20, hosted by Montezuma-Cortez, while the Class 3A state tournament is set for Oct. 4 and 5 at Spring Valley Golf Club in Elizabeth.
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A high school mountain biking league will hit the trails of Snowmass Village this weekend.